Poor olfaction tied to elevated long-term mortality in seniors

(HealthDay)—Among older adults, poor olfaction is associated with elevated long-term mortality, according to a study published online April 30 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Bojing Liu, Ph.D., from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues examined poor olfaction in relation to mortality among 2,289 adults aged 71 to 82 years at baseline. Participants underwent the Brief Smell Identification Test at baseline and were followed for all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

The researchers found that 1,211 participants died by year 13 of follow-up. Participants with poor olfaction had an increased cumulative risk for death at year 10 and year 13 (risk ratios, 1.46 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.27 to 1.67] and 1.30 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.18 to 1.42]) compared with those with good olfaction. The associations were similar in men and women and in black and white participants. The correlation was evident among participants who reported excellent-to-good health at baseline (10-year mortality risk ratio, 1.62; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.37 to 1.90), but not among those who reported fair-to-poor heath (risk ratio, 1.06; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.82 to 1.37). Poor olfaction correlated with higher mortality from neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Among participants with poor olfaction, neurodegenerative diseases and weight loss explained 22 and 6 percent, respectively, of the higher 10-year mortality.

“Future studies should investigate olfactory impairment as a general marker of aging to better understand its health implications and associated mechanisms in the broadest sense,” the authors write.

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